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This March, Celebrate Women’s History Month

Every woman has her own idea of financial success, and a unique situation that impacts her plans. Some leave work to care for their children. Others help support their parents. Many wish they had started investing earlier in life. And while each woman’s circumstances are unique, women’s financial values focus on a common theme: ways to build financial security, independence and quality of life for themselves and their families, according to Women & Co.’s new survey, Women and Affluence 2010

To help women define their personal financial legacy, Lisa Caputo, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Women & Co., and Linda Descano, CFA®, President of Women & Co., offer the following tips to help ensure that the assets you’re building today are directed to the people and causes you care most about in the future:

1. Take Inventory.

  • Organize your finances.
  • Use the Document Locator attached to help you get started.
  • Create a net worth statement.
  • Outline your assets, and maintain the list for your financial professional’s reference.

2. Assemble a Team of Professionals.

Your team members may include:

1.      A financial professional
2.      An attorney
3.      A tax professional

3. Communicate Your Wishes.

  • Create a will. This document will provide instructions as to how your property and assets are to be distributed after your death.
  • Draft a living will. A living will helps doctors and loved ones make decisions about your wishes if you become incapacitated.
  • Assign power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a contract, which allows you to designate another person to act on your behalf.
  • Appoint a health care proxy. This document provides for someone other than yourself to make your medical decisions in the event you are unable to because of accident or illness
  • Determine if a trust fits into your plan. Trusts allow people to give assets to their heirs under certain conditions. Your team of professionals will help you determine if a trust is the appropriate instrument for you.
  • Consider charitable contributions. Would you like any of your assets donated to a favorite charity or cause? Decide on a prudent charitable contribution strategy when working with your team of professionals.

4. Protect Your Family.

  • Nominate a guardian for your minor children. Who will care for your children should you become unable to act or die?
  • Review your insurance coverage. Speak to your team of professionals to learn more about the coverage options available, and what coverage may offer benefits for your beneficiaries.
  • Designate beneficiaries. A beneficiary designation describes how you want your assets distributed upon your death. Naming or changing beneficiaries requires your original signature on the appropriate beneficiary forms.

5. Make it Official.

  • File your important documents. Make sure you and your team of professionals submit your documents properly so they become effective in a timely manner.
  • Inform key people of their roles. Communicate your intentions to the individuals you’ve appointed and confirm they accept the responsibility.
  • Provide signed copies of each important document to your key appointees.

6. Keep it Going. 

  • Review your estate plan regularly. Many life changes, like marriages, births, divorces, death, retirements, relocations and inheritances can affect your estate plan.
  • Address these changes with your team of professionals to determine how your plans may need to be changed.